written by
Trudi Pavlovsky

Speaking up or not. Then and now.

coaching recovery 8 min read

Today I wanted to bring up, maybe not the most funnest conversation to have, but definitely something that I feel needs to be discussed.

It keeps popping up in conversations that I’ve been having with clients, people in general, and it is to topic of guilt, childhood trauma, and speaking up or not speaking up.

Smiles hide pain....

Now I obviously can speak from my own experience around not speaking up after being abused as a child.

I know many people who’ve experienced different forms of trauma as children, whether it’s sexual, mental, emotional, bullying, all of those kinds of things.

I’m doing a bit of a broad banner around trauma.

I don’t want to get caught on one particular type.

Most people I know who’ve experienced trauma as a child, didn’t speak up at the time.

There were many reasons, as a child, there’s the threat of punishment, the threat of losing your sense of family and belonging.

There’s always that worry that no one is going to believe you, or you somehow deserved it.

For anyone out there who has experienced one of these forms of trauma or other traumas, I just want you to know, I believe you.

And for those of you that did speak up, and nobody believed you, I believe you.

Now as children, we make our decisions based on a very young understanding of the world.

Although I know that many of us grew up a lot quicker than what we actually really would have liked to as children.

We then carry it as children into our teenager and into our adult years and any of those forms of trauma.

They do impact how you show up in the now.

Now, some of the conversations have been around feeling guilty for not speaking up at the time, and I was the same. Somebody did something to me.

As this person lived in a country town where I lived, got married, had a daughter, it really triggered a huge, a huge guilt thing in me, because I didn’t speak up so this girl was allowed to be born. Then my mind went to what could possibly happen to her and her friends as she got older.

That was the something that really weighed heavy on my heart growing up. It’s a common theme that pops up in conversations with a lot of people.

Then we ask ourselves as adults, do we?

  • Do we speak up?
  • Or do we let it go?
  • Is there a right answer?

I suggest these questions as a starting point.

How does taking either of these options impact your life now? What does doing either of these things mean for your life now?

You want to have a look at the impact that not speaking up is having on you, that speaking up would have on you and the impact that it’s going to have on those around you and your relationships with you.

I want to say this.

And you’ll know with your own personal circumstances or not whether it’s relevant for you.

Sometimes it’s okay to just let it go.

girl in field with arm out
Photographer: Hannah Busing | Source: Unsplash

You know, there’s a lot of people coming forward and speaking up, and it feels like it’s the right thing to do.

You should be telling everyone about the traumas, and you should be calling people out. And there’s a lot of should in that, but it’s a really delicate, nuanced individual situation.

For those of you that don’t feel that there’s right reasons for speaking up, or just want to let it go: that’s okay.

My biggest thing was that my not speaking up with one issue, was it potentially opened up other people to trauma if I did.

And that bought in guilt. I wanted to share to feel better but it meant pain for others.

It was also because some of those things that happened to me, I knew they were done onto me by people that were broken and abused by others.

I didn’t want to upset other people by speaking up because they then had to also carry the burden of my pain.

And here’s something that makes people uncomfortable.

There’s also the thing that sometimes you enjoy the actions performed onto you. Even though you know that it’s wrong mentally, physically, your body responds a certain way.

And in any of those things, there’s the shame and the guilt that you might be feeling.

I really encourage you, find ways to be compassionate to yourself.

Remember, as children, we don’t have full autonomy over ourselves.

We are trained from a very young age that the adult is in charge.

The adult can hurt you if you do speak up and the adult is always believed over the child.

You, like me, did the best that you could at the time.

This was a huge thing for me to process.

When eventually I did come forward and speak up about one of the things that happened to me as a child. I also had to accept that I did the best that I could.

I thought I was protecting my family. I thought that no one would believe me. I felt in one instance that I’ve done something wrong.

But when I finally came forward and spoke up as an adult, that was the right thing for me to do, because other things have been coming to light about this person and their behavior.

So I forgave myself for not speaking up sooner.

I carried all of those complex emotions for years.

And there needs to come a point if you’re carrying any of this stuff, to give yourself permission to find ways to let it go.

Now it’s all very it’s very individual, very personalized.

This is a general sort of conversation here, because you know, everyone experiences their trauma and their things differently.

But there needs to be a time where you forgive yourself.

If you decide if it’s right for you, come forward and tell people about it. Go to the police and file a report if that is right for you.

It can be very cathartic.

Now, for me coming forward in my 20s and speaking up, and this was after I’d already been in hospital for attempted suicide, and had told people who didn’t really process my experiences very well, because they felt bad that I’d had them.

But coming forward in those cases was healing. And it might not necessarily mean you need to go to the police or anything like that, but if having a conversation helps you heal and helps you let it go, find someone to speak too.

If you’re not up for tearing your family apart by speaking up or, making family have to confront things: that’s okay.

Photographer: Anukrati Omar | Source: Unsplash

Finding your way to make your peace with what’s happened is the most important thing.

Now in one conversation that I had with somebody ) because they were okay and had processed,) they decided that bringing it to the attention of the family was only going to cause more pain that other people involved weren’t ready to deal with it.

They’d blocked it out and where in denial so the person they had impacted made the loving choice to forgive and keep silent.

Your reasons behind coming forward or not coming forward, can have of lots of different nuances with the choices to be made.

So if you want to leave it, it’s okay.

And that was that that’s the biggest thing that’s come through in all of these conversations.

You don’t have to report everything.

If that feels right for you or if other people are at risk, and you feel you want to bring stuff up and report things, do it.

But make sure you have the right support around you to help you with whatever you decide.

Because the carrying of guilt (and I’m one of the reasons I’m bringing it up now is because I know there’s a lot of people all this time in isolation and alone) is bringing a lot of things up for people.

Reach out and get help and get support. There’s no right or wrong answer.

Looking after your own heart, finding ways to let go of the shame, fear, guilt, and in any judgment you have around it around yourself or in the situation, that would be the outcome that I would be encouraging for you.

Then you can move forward and you can start living your true life of happiness.

You can be okay.

Being able to walk through and beyond it is the best decision, the best permission that you can give yourself in these situations, especially things from your past.

I love you all, reach out if you need some help.

Be kind to yourself and do something to be okay with being okay about whatever you decide is the best action for your heart.

Be okay with letting it go.

Trudi ox

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